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Library protest still boils in Thornbury

 Robert Burcher

THE BLUE MOUNTAINS – Saturday was the first anniversary of what is now called Black Tuesday in The Blue Mountains, the day that all of the staff of the library were fired en masse.

A large crowd came out on Saturday despite the very nasty cold winds to show their support for the protest organization that is now called VOCAL. Carrying creative placards and hanging blue ribbons in the trees to indicate their presence, brief words were spoken and the very festive crowd dispersed.

There was some concern among the protesters when it was reported that undercover OPP officers had been in the crowd and photographing the proceedings.

The history of the original event was that the Town of the Blue Mountains was trying to resolve two problems that revolved around the library and the Craigleith Depot Museum according to members of VOCAL.

The first problem was multiple grievances against the head librarian, CEO Terri Pope. The second was how to find a new use for the Craigleith Heritage Depot that had been delisted as a museum by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and was not eligible for any more operating grants.

The library board felt that making it a satellite of the original library with a museum component would fill that gap from the loss of funding.

The restructuring came on the heels of an announcement the library would take over operation of the Craigleith Heritage Depot museum. The new structure includes positions created for both the museum and the L.E. Shore Library in Thornbury.

No current library staff were automatically given jobs under the new structure that merges the museum and library operations. Instead, staff had to apply for a new position under the new structure. This meant that staff would have to have both library and museum experience.

It was alleged that employees who had been trained librarians working in Thornbury and who had been filing grievances would not be rehired.

This plan was not made public, VOCAL contends at any time leading up to the event of March 8, 2016 when all nine librarians were all released.

When the library board was confronted at a public library board meeting they explained the action as rationale approach of restructuring.

During early days of the restructuring, the chair of the library board, Olav Vanderzon, resigned and the Mayor of the Blue Mountains John McKean took over the job, which VOCAL believes is in direct contradiction to Ontario Library Board guidelines.

Referred to by town council as a “tempest in a teapot” there was hope that the controversy would blow over.

One of VOCAL’s spokesmen, Paul Watson, feels that the board and council’s handling of the controversy has exacerbated the situation.

Tensions continue to run high between supporters of the library and town council on social media and in newspapers. During a newspaper interview last week town councillor Bob Gamble, who is on the library board made headlines when he stated, “public can’t be trusted for comments.” 

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